October 28, 2008
Originally published April 2, 2002
I hate going to meetings at work, because usually they take too much time, they don't accomplish a damned thing and if ever a decision is made, you have to call ANOTHER MEETING to make sure the decision is carried out. I went to one of those today that lasted an hour and a half.
We assembled to discuss an engineering project that is nearing completion, and it is an obvious thalidimide baby. It won't do what we require it to do if engineering stays on the current path, and engineering is nearly out of money for the project. Engineering wants desperately to ditch that deformed baby in a production dumpster to see if WE can dig it out, resusitate it and give it a good life.
No one involved has passed the point of no return on this project, and if we actually utilized all the teamwork, problem-solving and root cause analysis training we all received in the past, success remains a possibility. It STILL CAN BE DONE, even after that meeting. But here's what went wrong:
Character #1: Already engaged in a pissing contest with the project engineer, he wishes to pillory his enemy rather than solve the problem. Lot's of hidden agendas here that had nothing to do with the problem.
Character #2: A combination of three people from project engineering, there to protect their baliwick and outnumber Character #1 in a sustained pissing contest. More hidden agendas and an empire to protect, too.
Character #3: There to present every grievance he has against "the system" instead of dealing with the subject at hand. Constantly beating his personal drum whether it has anything to do with this project or not, and since it's not HIS project, he doesn't want to talk about it in the first place. He would rather beat HIS drum.
Character #4: My boss. He must make a decision that WE have to live with, and it damned sure ain't the one engineering wants to lay in our lap, and he does not want to referee the obvious pissing contest occurring before his eyes. He probably is the only one at the meeting who has a clue about what we can accept and how to go about getting it. He spoke less than charcters #1 through #3. But he laid out the correct, firm but polite demands, and got his way, God bless him.
Character #5: The Training Department (two poor unfortunates). They kept their mouths shut and took copious notes during the proceedings. As an ex-trainer, I know the helpless feeling that creeps over you in a meeting such as this. WHATEVER THEY DECIDE, I'm going to have to teach this shit. I belong to a service organization. They command, I serve. I'll do the best job I can, but IF THESE ASSHOLES CAN'T MAKE UP THEIR MINDS WHAT THEY WANT, then how can I provide it for them? You start to notice an itching, burning sensation in your seat when the meeting goes really off-track. They were rooting hard for Character #4.
Character #5: Me. Silent most of the time. I discussed the issue with Character #4 this morning, long before the meeting. He knows what we need and I totally agree. I was extraneous to the proceedings and mainly there to watch the show, which resembled a three-ring circus, complete with juggling clowns and dancing bears. My presence was not required, except for professional courtesy, which I could do without most of the time.
We formed an action plan, after focusing all our energy for about five minutes straight on the problem we came to solve, while wasting the other hour and a half. If we do what we decided to do, we can keep this deformed baby out of the dumpster. I just hope SOMEBODY remembers the decision we made amid all that noise.
If we end up with a deformed baby from this project, I'VE GOT TO RAISE IT, and I don't want that. Enough of my life is deformed already.
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